Raise your hand if you love Olivia Pope. Now, raise your other hand if you hate her. I’m willing to bet that most of you reading this have both hands stretched straight up (metaphorically of course). What is it about our “professional fixer” that makes us both love her and love to hate her?
The seventh and final season premiere of “Scandal” starts with a bang, as Olivia struts down the halls of the White House, prepared to give another rapid-fire speech to coerce a state senator to vote “yes” on her proposed free education bill- just another morning with Olivia Pope. In Olivia’s Sunday dinner with her father, the (dinner) tables have clearly turned. Olivia has taken his place as the all-powerful “Command” of the secret CIA agency B613 and confidently mocks him.
While Olivia has regained the power and confidence for which viewers admire her for, no longer succumbing to the noticeably absent Fitz’ every command, it is apparent that the power is starting to go to her head. This is seen in her treatment of Jake, who loves Olivia and would do anything to protect her. Olivia, on the other hand, sees Jake as a toy for her enjoyment alone and not a partner. She speaks to him as if he’s an insubordinate employee and swiftly breaks his heart at the episode’s close.
As always, “Scandal” wastes no time commenting on pressing and relevant political issues. When Olivia argues for free education, claiming the bill will be footed by “those who can afford it,” her interviewer raises concerns. For some, he counters, college is not practical at the young age of 18. Viewers are left to draw their own conclusions on the matter.
Meanwhile, Vice President Cyrus is up to his usual scheming, plotting for his own political takeover and setting his sights on the ultimate goal: the presidency. Throughout the episode, Cyrus is pressured to shoot down the education bill to save it for his own presidency in four years. However, in an uncharacteristic move, Cyrus puts his own selfish ambitions aside and pledges to push Olivia’s education bill forward for the greater good. This is lucky for Cyrus, because it is revealed that Olivia is behind the pressure to shut down the bill, likely to test Cyrus’s loyalties.
Back at Pope and Associates, the beloved Gladiators provide some much-needed comedic relief. As a pregnant Quinn grows, so does her appetite. She rattles off a Chinese food order to Charlie as the team discusses legal issues. However, the episode could have used some more laughs from the twisted yet witty and charming team.
In tonight’s premiere, viewers also get a glimpse at another powerful woman in a new role: President Mellie Grant. However, when she attempts to rescue a hostage from a foreign ambassador, they do not even slightly see her as powerful and quickly dismiss the female leader, visibly shattering Mellie’s confidence. Mellie appears to recover, wasting no time trying to make peace with former frenemy Cyrus and attending a photoshoot with some young Girl Scouts.
Although Mellie’s friendship with Cyrus seems to be on the mend, the same can’t be said for Mellie’s relationship with Olivia. The two engage in an infamous power struggle. Mellie puts in the order to “take out” a CIA agent to preserve his legacy as an American hero, while Olivia protests the move. Even though Mellie wins that battle, Olivia takes the next one. Although Mellie’s meeting with the ambassador was largely unsuccessful, Olivia’s use of said ambassador’s son as leverage proves more effective than Mellie’s attempted cordialities. Mellie is angered by Olivia’s clear disobedience and tries to put Olivia in her place, but Olivia knows where she belongs: at the top, with Mellie. That’s right – with Mellie. Olivia squeezes in a final speech before the episode’s close about how she and Mellie must work together as women to stick it to the men. However, this comes off as more manipulative than empowering, as it is contrasted with her orders for the previously-mentioned interviewer to meet her for a late-night rendezvous – one that will serve her own desires first.
In this episode, Olivia’s new power is the source of both admiration and frustration on the part of viewers. In the past, she chose love over power and felt the sting. However, she seems to have moved too far in the opposite direction. Will Olivia ever learn to balance her political career with her personal life? One can only hope that this final season of “Scandal” will leave her with that happy balance.
Veronica Eskander is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.